Sep 032017

I’m a big believer in eating real food. A typical breakfast for me consists of organic oats – topped with sliced banana, blueberries, chia seeds and walnuts – and drizzled with whole organic milk. Favorite lunches are 1) plain yogurt blended with papaya chunks and 2)a plate of organic corn tortilla chips topped with melted cheese, salsa with avocado, and pinto beans. For dinner, I usually saute different varieties of vegetables with chicken or fish. I almost always cook with olive or coconut oils.

While I work hard to eat and find places I can buy an abundance of real foods, the food industry, media and general public continue to sabotage these efforts. Food companies know how to make food that stimulates your taste buds, often to the point that they lose a taste for real food. Food with excessive sugar, fat and flavorings tested to “addict” eaters is known as hyperpalatable.  Recognizing that many people are making an effort to eat healthier, food companies are producing products that sound healthy, but really aren’t. And the sad thing about this is that magazines are writing features that are nothing short of advertorials for these convenience foods. It feels to me like they have sold out. One feature I read recently even went as far as to insult a reader who chooses the “sit down bowl of oatmeal” over rushing out the door and eating a bar on the way to an appointment. Wow. I’ll take my bowl of oatmeal any day over bars that have xantham gum and “natural” flavors, which are not really natural at all and can contain a wide range of chemicals. Some of the foods mentioned in articles contain aspartame and sucralose, chemicals that I’ve established give me horrible migraines. How painful is it to get up fifteen minutes early so you can eat your meal at the table instead of in the car (and possibly feel a whole lot better the rest of the day as a result of this choice)? I’ll leave that for you to decide.

If grab and go is all that matters to you, then some of the “healthy” items in plastic packages that the fitness magazines boast about might do it for you. I’ll give them this much – they’re better than a greasy burger or a fake shake at a fast food restaurant! But I’m not interested in jumping on this convenience food band wagon that too many fitness magazines are pushing us to jump on. One reason I didn’t renew my subscription to IDEA Fitness Journal is that I was so turned off by the rash of nutrition features lately, which encourage fitness leaders to consume these packed foods, serve them to their families and spread the word about them to their class participants and clients. So many fresh food meals take only minutes to create and taste so delicious! As for me? I’ll continue to encourage everyone within my circle to eat as close to the source so they can reap the feel-and-look-good benefits this choice has to offer.

Sep 012017

If you have good intentions of exercising every day and most of the time it never happens, you’re not alone. 80 percent of Americans do not meet the recommended activity levels for strength training and aerobic exercise.

One way to turn this around is to plan your week ahead of time for activity instead of having a vague plan to work out “sometime” during the day. A second way is to work short bouts of activity into your day so it adds up to enough to give you health benefits. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Sunday night, set up a schedule for the week. For example, my typical week looks like this. In Tucson, I swim an hour on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday about 6:30 or 7 AM. On Monday and Wednesday, I teach yoga classes and take a thirty-minute walk. On Friday, I teach a dance-aerobics class. When I spend time at our condo in Mexico, I swim in the ocean for 30-60 minutes every morning upon waking and walk for an hour every evening. When the weather is good, I kayak so I watch the sea and choose a day or two a week to go out for 2-3 hours. I have more time to exercise than most people, but here’s what my IT manager husband’s workout schedule looks like…Monday, Wednesday and Friday – Masters swimming workout 5-6 AM. Tuesday and Thursday 5-5:45 AM run about 3 miles. 3 evenings after work, he goes to the gym to lift weights.
  2. Participate in classes offered at your work (my husband sometimes does this once or twice a week).
  3. To work in short bouts (aiming to achieve about 30 minutes of total movement during the day), consider these as options… Walk outside or the up and down the halls or stairs at work during part of your lunch hour. Do a short walk before work. Walk or bicycle after you get home from work. Purchase a stationary bicycle or treadmill for home use and USE IT. Listen to your favorite playlists or watch the news or other programs you like on TV to stay motivated. Anytime you can be active while watching TV is better. In general, most Americans spend too much time parked in front of computers and the TV. When my children were infants, I used to do exercise DVDs and also had a bench step so I could do that while I watched TV.

Keep in mind that getting the body in motion is the hardest part. Once you get in the habit of moving a lot, it becomes a habit and your body crave the healthy movement that it needs to function optimally. Today, I’m in Mexico, about to face Tropical Storm Lidia. So I stayed inside and did a Vinyasa Yoga practice and plan to do a lot of housework to stay moving today. If you have questions on how to get started or want to share your secrets with others, please feel free to comment. I hope you take steps to care for yourself today!

 

Mar 312017

I am excited to announce the release of my new book, Fitter Than Ever at 40 and Beyond.

I know fitness and how the right balance of training, mindful exercise and good nutrition can transform your life. Rewrite your script of making resolutions and quitting them and start living a healthy lifestyle today. Fitter Than Ever offers an easy-to-follow activity and eating plan and is packed with Slim for Life Secrets to keep you on-track and motivated. This book will make your journey of losing weight, exercising and eating healthy fun and empowering.

The e-books are available now. A paperback print edition will be available by April 30.

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Fitter Than Ever at 40 and Beyond


Oct 152016

Many people open the medicine cabinet the instant a joint or muscle aches or the stomach hurts. Many over-the-counter and prescription medications  wreak havoc on the body. What helps your joint pain might make your gut scream hours later. Plants and herbs such at turmeric, ginger, and triphala, can offer relief without unpleasant side effects. I have been amazed how much better I feel now that I’m integrating them into my daily diet. Studies show they can improve health and reduce long-term suffering. It is very important to consult with your physician before taking herbs or stopping any current medications.

Three of my favorite herbs are turmeric (curcumin is the active ingredient), ginger, and triphala. I take triphala almost daily in tablet form and make tea with a blend of powdered turmeric and ginger.

Turmeric is an excellent anti-inflammatory and can be taken in a tea or in warm oil when joint or muscle pain strikes in lieu of taking medication. Some studies have even shown it can help alleviate arthritic pain and is protective against cancer.

Ginger is the perfect remedy for an upset stomach. It can ease nausea, morning sickness, and even reduce the misery of motion sickness and menstrual cramps. People often report it reduces post-exercise muscle soreness. Studies show the anti-inflammatory properties of ginger often reduces painful symptoms of osteoarthritis when taken internally or a paste including ginger is applied to the painful area. Ingesting ginger regularly may also lower cholesterol levels, stabilize blood sugar levels, and reduce the risk of cancer and Alzheimers.

Triphala contains three fruits found in India: Amalaki, Bibhitaki, and Haritaki. It is a gentle bowel cleanser that helps improve digestion, reduce stomach discomfort and contributes to regular bowel movements. Because it helps with food absorption, taking it regularly while eating a well balanced diet can ensure the body is getting adequate nourishment. Many regular users of triphala report healthy weight loss once their digestive systems get to a state of balance. Triphala is also a powerful antioxidant, which helps protect the body from free radical damage. Triphala can be taken in a tea or in tablet form.

Before going beyond sprinkling some of these on your meals, consult with a trusted physician or licensed naturopath. That person can ensure whatever herbs you’re taking won’t adversely interfere with any medications your taking. Once you’ve been given the green light, you’ll find your body will respond much better to natural herbs. They improve health instead of simply putting a temporary bandaid on symptoms.

Oct 022016

In June, I traveled to Big Corn Island, Nicaragua for a 200 hour Ashtanga Yoga Certification course with It’s YogaNica. I joined Ainsley, Jon, Camilla, Rachel, and Megan for the three week course, which was taught by instructors Edwin and Kelli. I wanted to be able to add yoga to my fitness teaching credentials because I want to live more mindfully and help others do so as well. Every day, I practiced and lived the life of a yogi. Learning with the amazing and gifted students in the group was amazing. All of them are such special people and I will cherish the time I spent with them for the rest of my life. I also enjoyed daily early morning swims in the ocean. I swam during the sunrise and while most of the island was still sleeping. Those swims brought me so much serenity and peace. Swimming to me is meditation and in the calm, warm sea, I swam along, admiring colorful fish and coral and the occasional manta ray or nurse shark.

Over the course of the training, I became very in-tune with myself, learned how to better discipline my mind, and learned how to master most of the poses and to teach them effectively.  I walked away with so much more than a yoga certificate.

I left feeling that I had begun a journey into understanding myself and my life’s purpose. In a different place, I began to break away from some of the samskaras or patterned thought processes that have been stealing my joy and keeping me from growing for too many years. It is very hard to break away from these patterned thoughts. I have many of these. Thoughts that I don’t fit in, I’m not successful enough, that I’m a chronic headache sufferer. I want to see myself as a swimmer, a yogi, an author, a compassionate and loving person with a sense of adventure. I want to feel content with my life wherever I am. That’s who I was during my yoga class in Nicaragua. After my return from Nicaragua, I saw myself starting to fall back into old patterns of thinking and it took some time to figure out how to break down those walls. I will share some of those thoughts in  blog posts and in my memoir, Journey to a Better Life, to be published in 2017. One of the most important I qualities that has been imperative to my learning journey is patience. Changing thought patterns is difficult. I didn’t develop them overnight – they have been running wild in my head for years -and it takes time to change them. I have found for me the best mechanisms to break negative thought patterns are daily yoga practice and travel. I can reset my mind with meditation or yoga practice and I can often reset my mind with a change of scenery as well. In three days, I will travel to Mykonos, Greece to teach yoga classes for three weeks. There will be no past to confine me and day by day I will write the future I want to live. I will go to this far away place knowing that the people in the world that love me most understand my journey and are in my heart no matter how many miles separate us.

Jun 282016

Usually, I write articles about how to move more, eat healthier and live a better life. But not tonight. Tonight’s feature delves into my deepest darkest secret. Oh, yes, I bet you can’t wait to read about it, right? Or do I flatter myself? Anyway, here goes…Tonight, last night and the night before that, I, I, I…(sorry, I’m starting to hyperventilate as well as stammer), um, ate dinner in front of the TV. Yes, I know, you can’t believe I would do such a thing. You know as well as I do that eating while reading or watching television while eating trains the brain to crave food whenever the black box remote is clicked on. Talk about diet nightmare. I know what you must be thinking… Susan, what’s happened to you?

Okay, here’s the deal. I have a severe case of Olympic fever. Olympic Swimming Trials started Sunday in Omaha, Nebraska. Swimming is my favorite sport. I’ve been swimming most of my life. I started swimming when I fell in the pool at age two in a diaper and my mom hauled me out and decided I’d better take swimming lessons. Once my excessive energy became a major annoyance to my parents, I found myself on the swim team. I loved it. My time in the pool was the best part of the day. Even now many decades later, it still is. Because of my deep love of the water and the sport of swimming, when Trials or the Olympics are in session, I transform into an obsessive freak. Yes, that’s right. I don’t care if I’m late to work. I don’t care if your email doesn’t get answered until next week. I don’t care if dinner isn’t fixed on time (my husband doesn’t necessarily share this sentiment). And if it’s dinner time and a swimming race is happening, I park myself in front of the TV and empty my plate. And maybe eat a snack in front of the tellie a little later. What’s a couple of pounds weight gain in the greater scheme of things when so much is happening in the swimming world that I don’t want to miss out on. I have to know who’s swimming in the semifinals or the finals tonight and who the top contenders are in each race. Why did Michael Phelps scratch the 200 free? Does that mean he’s not in shape enough to go to Rio? Why did Elizabeth Beisel scratch the 200 IM? Is she sick? Oh, crud, Ryan Lochte didn’t make the Olympic team in the 400 IM. Is his groin tear going to interfere with him qualifying in the 200 free? Wow, Phelps was awesome in the 200 fly prelims. Maybe he still has the stuff. And his little boy is so cute!!

Yes, you just experienced my brain during Olympic Trials. Hyperactive, distracted and overrun with swimming gobbledygook. Keeping all the facts straight can be quite difficult. Rowdy and Dan rattle off facts about swimmers faster than the competitors can get their hands on the wall. And at the end of the night I’m doing a review in my head. Who got the perfect Math SAT score, who swam at Stanford, who was going to represent the Philippines in the Olympics and then couldn’t at the last minute? But I’m getting off topic yet again. More than likely you don’t care about any of this swimmer trivia and would rather be reading an article written by a thoughtful, composed, intelligent writer instead of someone suffering from Olympic fever. Please don’t despair. This coming weekend the Trials will end and I will go back to eating dinner at the kitchen table with the TV safely off. Who knows, my husband and I might even talk about subjects outside the realm of competitive swimming.

Oct 192015

The water’s where I go to regain balance when I’m stressed, to escape when life hurts. That’s why most days of the week even when the water’s cold, the deck is slick with ice or it’s pitch dark, I haul myself out of bed at the crack of dawn and submerge my head in chlorinated water.

Usually, I’m barely awake and a little disoriented when I first dive in. But when I emerge from my hour-long outdoor swim, I feel transformed. Instead of dull and lethargic, my thoughts feel focused and sharp and my mind feels relaxed and calm. All stiffness is replaced by a feeling of youthful exuberance and my skin tingles in a way that’s a pleasant reminder I’m alive.

Still…I’ve always wondered what it would be like to take this swimming experience outside the confines of a concrete rectangle. On countless beach vacations, I’ve dreamed of swimming beyond the buoys, crowds and stirred up sediment. I’ve gazed out at the sea and fantasized about swimming for hours with no worries about boat traffic or being carried away by a current.

When I first came across the Big Blue website, my husband was a new swimmer, training for his first triathlon. I bookmarked the site, followed Big Blue on Facebook and jealously read the trip itinerary. Wow–daily swims around islands in the Ionian Sea, crossing channels and hugging coastlines. Sounds like a swimmer’s dream come true. If only Chris was ready for that, I thought.

Five years later, Chris had completed countless triathlons and trained with the Masters swim team daily. Last spring after we finished a lake swim, I felt confident he could enjoy a swimming vacation. So I burst out with, “Can we please do that swim trip in Greece?”

Fast forward to six months later… Chris and I sit shoulder to shoulder on the deck of a boat called Mogli near Lefkada Island, Greece. We’re chatting with new friends we’ve met from Australia, the UK and Israel as the boat bobs over waves toward our latest island destination in the Ionian Sea. The sea between the Greek mainland and Lefkada is a swimmer’s playground with dozens of islands around to explore. Topped with olive and fir trees, they are rimmed in white limestone and aquamarine water that transforms into a luxurious blue as the water deepens. The sea is such a postcard perfect blue I’m tempted to close my eyes for a few seconds to see if its still there when I reopen them.

Neither of us are open water gurus. We worry the swims might be scary, that we might feel alone and vulnerable out in the ocean. But with the support of our guides on Mogli and the inflatable boats, we feel safe. Most of the time, we hug the shoreline of an island, hovering over a limestone bottom barely over our heads. Most significantly, our guides Michael, Jax and Noa choose fortuitous swimming spots with minimal boat activity and calmer water, escort us every stroke of the way, and offer us juice and water at regular intervals to keep us hydrated.

The trip feels like a magical dream. Every morning after a relaxing and scenic boat trip, we swim around different islands and enjoy long lunches in quaint villages. The three speed groups that have been established allow us all to swim at a pace that feels right. My pink swim group buddies are my husband, Chris, and Fran Lou. We are soon dubbed “the explorers” because we rarely miss the opportunity to capture a photo, propel our way into a cave or surface dive to recover a sea urchin skeleton from the bottom. All three of us are athletic and adventurous so we make a great swimming team. Suzanne Williams jumps in to join us for a couple of swims, instantly adopting the adventurous, explorer spirit, pointing out starfish nestled in the limestone beds as we swim along.

In the pool, I felt confined. In the Ionian Sea, I feel suddenly free. I cruise along, gliding through the buoyant, salty sea until every smooth stroke feels like meditation. Peering through that crystal clear water, I watch schools of fish dart out of my path. I slide my hand over beds of tilted and buckled limestone that have been subjected to millions of years of the earth’s compressive forces.

Without the predictability of a black line or a wall, my mind is excitedly anticipating what might happen next. Are there fish behind those rocks? Will there be bigger waves after we round that peninsula? Will we be able to squeeze into that cave?

After exploring a cave, Fran climbs up onto a big shelf of limestone outside its mouth. I take a picture of her smiling and flexing her muscles.

When it’s time for another channel crossing, my heart rate accelerates. It’s harder work and the seas are choppier. The white limestone bottom drops out from beneath us and all I see through my goggles is cerulean blue water. Is the water one hundred feet deep or five hundred feet deep? Dozens of feet below me, a milky white jellyfish opens its umbrella like body before closing it again, propelling itself through the water. What else lies below us, I wonder. Fish, dolphins, sea turtles? A shark, perhaps? Not knowing makes the experience more exciting. It’s my adrenaline rush for the day.

On our final day, we stroke across a small channel from Skorpidi Island to Skorpios Island. Skorpios Island, once owned by Aristotle and Jacki Onassis, was recently sold to Ekaterina Rybolovleva, the daughter of Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev.

Swimming through crystal clear water alongside this idyllic island is like starring in a James Bond movie. The Spy Who Loved Me song plays in my head as I turn my head to breathe and see a stone wall hiding an expansive villa. Then I see acres of lush green forest, where security cameras peering out from the foliage serves as the only reminder that someone lives here and is watching our every move.  As we round another point, buoys prevent us from swimming too close to a second villa perched above the beach. A bodyguard wearing a crisp white shirt and sunglasses observes us from shore.

“Six thirty three,” Gary shouts when I touch the wall after a five hundred yard timed swim at Masters workout. I’m jarred back to the present. It’s been weeks since Chris and I returned from our wonderful vacation in Greece. But whenever I’m in the pool, my thoughts often drift across the Atlantic and back to the Ionian Sea and once again, I’m gliding through the salty sea, relishing how it feels on my skin. And after a hard workout, sometimes I close my eyes, float on my back and imagine I’m bobbing on the waves and that I’m still surrounded by amazing world of blue water and green islands that is Greece. That fantasy will just have to do until I get a chance to go back.

Jun 252015

Foods sweetened with aspartame and sucralose seem to be an ideal solution for minimizing sugar and caloric intake. The sad truth is both are harmful chemicals that wreak havoc on your system. Even people who routinely avoid artificial sweeteners should beware of where these insidious ingredients lurk. Most know they are constituents of low-calorie carbonated beverages, but they are also found in chewing gum, chewable vitamins, yogurt and even the pickled ginger commonly served with sushi!

Tucson-based holistic neurospecialist Dr. Timothy Marshall, one of the world’s leading experts in nutrient delivery systems, nutrient optimization and low-dose lithium therapeutics is all to familiar with the harmful effects of these powerful and dangerous chemicals having suffered symptoms from consuming them himself. He educates readers about the dangers of artificial sweeteners in his book, Think Smoking is Bad? Try Aspartame.

“Aspartame is composed of two amino acids, phenylalanine and aspartic acid,” he says in his book. The O-methyl group attached to the molecule breaks down into methanol with the remainder of the molecule generating the potent carcinogen DKP along with free-form amino acids that can harm the brain, eyes and nervous system. DKP, he goes on to explain, chemically resembles the tumor-causing chemical, N-nitrosea.

When consumed, the phenylalanine and the aspartic acid are highly stimulating, which keeps diet soda drinkers heading back to the refrigerator panting for more. Meanwhile, the methanol is in the bloodstream, reacting and eventually binding with oxygen. Once this compound converts to formaldehyde (a known carcinogen) and formic acid, it goes on a rampage.

“Formaldehyde binds to DNA and proteins and interferes with their function in the body,” says Dr. Marshall. This process is especially damaging to the brain and nervous system. Formic acid isn’t body-friendly either. “The primary pain-producing molecule in bee or ant venom,” it is a biological irritant with neurotoxic affects.

World-renowned authority in natural medicine, Dr. Joseph Mercola states on his health and wellness web site www.mercola.com that aspartame is “the most dangerous substance added to most food today.” In a blog post, he states, “Aspartame accounts for over 75 percent of the adverse reactions to food additives reported to the FDA.” Among those reports are instances of seizures and death.

Although the EPA established safe limit for methanol is 7.8 mg/day, a diet soda contains 18 mg of methanol. Considering the numerous individuals drinking two or more sodas daily, the harmful effects of such consumption are difficult to quantify.

In addition to the more severe side effects, formaldehyde poisoning may contribute to metabolic dysfunction, weight gain, loss of insulin sensitivity, depression, fibromyalgia and an increase in inflammatory markers says Dr. Marshall. Some studies indicate a strong correlation between aspartame and brain tumors.

Health conscious individuals should read labels carefully to ensure aspartame and sucralose (Splenda) are not constituents. Dr. Marshall suggests sweetening foods and drinks with safe sugar substitutes stevia or lo han.

Apr 152014

If you’re feeling irritable and exhausted, excessive sugar may be the culprit. Recording what you eat for a week or two can help you evaluate your diet so you can make better food choices that will improve how you feel and your overall health.

Your brain demands a constant supply of sugar and energy to function. If it doesn’t receive what it needs, the body reacts to this crisis by releasing chemicals in an attempt to regulate this whacky situation.

Sugar, often a major constituent of processed foods, can make you irritable by causing spikes and dropouts in insulin and blood sugar. Here’s what happens when you dump four teaspoons of sugar into your morning coffee and drink it down. Insulin, responsible for maintaining normal blood sugar levels, soars dramatically as blood sugar jumps up to sweep excessive sugar from the blood. Unfortunately, it tends to overdo this task and leaves you feeling lethargic, irritable and craving another sugar high (a doughnut, perhaps). This then triggers the release of adrenaline, a stress hormone that triggers the flight or fight response. So if you ever wanted to hurt someone after your drank that sugar-rich coffee or soaked your waffles in syrup, now you know why. In many cases, the chemical chaos that ensues leaches the body of high quality nutrients, throwing you further out of balance.

The best way to stabilize mood and energy is to eat sensibly. Avoid eating simple carbohydrates, especially without the support of other foods, to keep blood sugar more level throughout the day. Candy, non-diet sodas, juices, and cakes are all examples of simple carbohydrates. When you consume refined sugar or products where it is a main ingredient, you dump empty calories into your body that have no nutritional benefit and often can compromise your health.

 Remember, not all carbohydrates are evil. Ingesting healthier carbohydrate, such as fruits and whole grain products, will provide your body and brain with a steadier energy stream. If you must consume items containing refined sugar, dilute them with other foods, such as meats and low-fat dairy products. Protein and fat delay the absorption of sugar into the blood and take longer to digest than carbohydrates. A blend of foods is most likely to leave you feeling more level and energetic.

Eating small meals with a mix of nutrients every three or four hours is another technique that works well to stabilize blood sugar. While small meals aren’t a chore to digest, very large meals draw so much blood flow to the stomach that you will feel lethargic.

Sugar induced weight gain and chemical imbalances, combined with an inactive lifestyle, can eventually lead to a host of health problems, including diabetes.  Tweaking your diet for the healthier can improve your energy level, mood and can positively impact long-term health.

Sep 132012

Well-meaning friends and family members urge you to take care of yourself. Yet every minute they’re telling you to sleep, eat right, and exercise, and relax, you’re thinking “if only you knew.” There are doctor’s appointments to rush off to, prescriptions to be filled, meals to be cooked and you’re afraid to leave your spouse alone.

Still, what you really want is your spouse to be well-cared for by the person who loves them most. And that person is you. And one way to increase the probability you’ll be able to continue to fulfill this invaluable role is to exercise. Exercise reduces the incidence of a whole host of debilitating diseases. It also improves sleep and will help you feel more energized and optimistic. If you are coping and in control, it will be easier for you to maintain a cheerful face so your souse will be more likely to enjoy the moment with you instead of focusing on fear of the disease.

If your spouse cannot be left alone, try to arrange for a friend or family member to come by the house for the hour you step out to the gym. Just the change of scenery will give you a lift. If you don’t think you know anyone, take a chance and ask a friend or neighbor to help. You’ll most likely get a “yes.” One of life’s frustrations is that people feel helpless when they see others suffering and are unable to prevent it. So they are often thrilled to help in any possible way. It makes them feel good about themselves knowing in a small way they did make a difference.

When help isn’t readily available, there are always other exercise solutions (there is no way to escape exercise around me). Perhaps both of you can take a walk. Or you purchase a stationary piece of aerobic equipment such as a treadmill or bicycle. Even exercising a little here and there throughout the day offers health benefits.

You can also do an in home workout with dumbbells and bands or hire a Vital Moves trainer to come to your house to run you through a workout. Or you can pop an exercise DVD in and pump it up. Don’t be afraid to break a sweat! Try to exert yourself for at least 40 minutes total most days of the week.

Remember, building a strong body will not only keep you healthy, it will make your job easier. Lifting and helping move a person can be exhausting and injurious when the caregiver isn’t fit enough to cope with it. A base conditioning program can help your body, heart, and mind to keep it together. So you can be the best for you. And for the spouse you love so much.